Robert Higgs’ essay regarding individual rights and the nature of government is a reality-based summary which should be widely read. Bradford’s contribution, “Not So Democratic,” is an outstanding essay regarding the profoundly “undemocratic” beliefs of the framers of the Constitution and the numerous antimajoritarian mechanisms within the document.Higgs destroys the false dichotomy between “human rights” and “property rights,” but not before reminding us that “[e]very government, ultimately if not immediately, relies on physical violence to enforce its rule.” Professor Dwight Lee’s piece on “The Political Economy of the U. Constitution” offers a particularly good review of the U. Supreme Court’s economic jurisprudence through 1986. Lee’s likening the government to the role of a referee in a football game is just the sort of illustration appropriate for those who seldom or never have thought through the implications of Constitution-related discussions they’ve heard before. The Constitution is no mere blueprint for populist, majoritarian government; the super-majority votes required for amending the Constitution obviously are structured and required to prevent tinkering by bare majorities.At the Clarence Thomas hearings, Richard Epstein’s was waved around by a Joseph Biden terrified at the prospect of the national government being required to compensate citizens when federal regulations diminish individuals’ rights to property. This year the Tenth Amendment, too, was rediscovered by the Supreme Court, the federal legislative branch has been informed that there are limits beyond which statutes cannot go.
The Boston Tea Party is a major link in the chain of events that resulted in the form of government we enjoy today.
After the Tea Party, Britain responded with economic actions including a blockade of Boston Harbor.
Even in the midst of a so-called Congressional “revolution,” block grants from Washington to the states, with fewer Federal conditions, are considered an indication of “federalism,” as if under that concept the states are only quasi-administrative units of the national government—but with more “freedom” to craft programs, freedom “allowed” by Congress.
When an overwhelming majority of legislative “revolutionaries” and movement “leaders” fail to exhibit a sound, complete grasp of our primary, foundational document of governance, it is all the more important for the citizenry itself to grasp the essence of that document—to understand its principles, its historical context, the guiding presuppositions and beliefs of those who drafted the Constitution and those who ratified it.
An additional weakness of the Articles was the required unanimous consent to amend the Articles and the required 9 of 13 states to agree to any new law essentially making the legislature unworkable.
To solve these problems and amend the Articles a constitutional convention was called for and began in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787. This convention of course did not amend the Articles but instead created a draft of the current US Constitution and released it for ratification hopefully by at least 9 of the 13 states. This constitution, also called at the time the Philadelphia draft or Philadelphia proposal, contained only mandates with no explanations, a governing philosophy unique in the history of the world where the people were sovereign, and no official written record of the secret proceedings, so ratification was not assured without some education as to why this constitution was necessary to satisfy the nations need’s. We’ve all heard the abominations which pass for popular political discourse throughout America today.“The American way is the way of democracy; the majority rules.” “Human rights obviously are more important than property rights.” “Rights are given to us by the government.” “The `general welfare’ clause of the Constitution justifies our welfare state and the redistribution of wealth.” Admittedly, current times offer some hope for a re-birth of appreciation of fundamental constitutional values. Supreme Court has, albeit meagerly, begun to recognize constitutional protection of property rights.Still, the rediscovery of the Constitutional design has a long way to go.Several years ago, Robert Bork referred to the Ninth Amendment as an “inkblot.” Few conservatives expressed any dismay at Bork’s commentary.Not being able to tax or raise armies may have ended our struggle for independence during the war had it not been for the leadership of General George Washington. After the war, competition rose between the states because of the inability to regulate interstate commerce. This essay should be read by every political science undergraduate student, every first-year law student, and every public official in America. There is no grant of plenary power to the national government; as Nilsson wrote, “Knowing what led up to the war, and reading the charges in the Declaration of Independence, can anyone for a minute think that the colonists generally, and the members of the convention specifically, would have adopted a constitution which granted general welfare powers to the federal government?” Clarence Carson’s essay on “The General Welfare” nicely complements the Nilsson essay.